D'oh! BART hacked in censor furor; Anonymous unleash #OpBART

OpBART (@exiledsurfer)
By Richi Jennings (@richi ) - August 15, 2011.

[Updated with more commentary and analysis]

San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) is facing mounting criticism after its "censorship" of the subterranean cellular voice and data network. This has caused Anonymous hackers to deface BART's website, and further protests are planned for later today. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers weigh up the pros and cons.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: How Lithuania's capital city deals with illegal parking...

It all started when BART shut off the service, as Robert McMillan reports:

[On] a transit system [in] one of the most wired cities in North America [you] couldn't make wireless calls, surf the Web or dial 911. ... [BART said] it cut phone services out of safety concerns..."A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to...unsafe conditions."


BART initially claimed that it had asked carriers to cut service. ... A few hours later, it changed [its] statement...saying that it had cut services itself. ... The transit agency has weathered criticism and protests. ... [A] BART police officer shot and killed 45-year-old Charles Hill. ... Last year former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of killing an unarmed passenger.   

   Dave Neal picks up the latest developments:

Anonymous have set their sights on...BART. ... Operation BART...is meant to teach Bart a lesson about the dangers of censoring people...and is supposed to be an educational experience for the operators.


A full protest is expected to happen...later today but for now the group, or parts of it, are 'warming up' [with] nuisance attacks like the one that [defaced the] BART web site...this weekend.   

Zusha Elinson portrays the decision to censor as rogue:

BART director...Lynette Sweet said that BART's Chief of Police...briefed the Board of Directors. ... But the tactic...was presented as a “fait accompli.” ... “I was offended that something this large...wasn't brought to us for discussion. ... We’re the policymakers. ... This is a transit agency...our job is not to censor people.”


BART’s chief communications officer Linton Johnson...has taken credit for the idea...and he bristled at criticism. ... “We survived for years without cellphone service. ... Now they’re...complaining that we turned it off for three hours?”   

Predictably, Anonymous invokes visions of the Arab Spring:

In Egypt and Tunisia, we saw people struggling to make their voices heard. ... In the Bay Area, we’ve seen people gagged. ... Anonymous will attempt to show those engaging in censorship what it feels like to be silenced.


You do not censor people because they wish to speak out against...the wrongful things occurring around them. ... We will not tolerate censorship. ... We will be free to speak out against you when you try to cover up crimes.


People of San Francisco, join us Monday...at 5pm for a peaceful protest at Civic Center station. ... For the people outside of San Francisco, show solidarity by using black fax, email bombs, and phone calls. ... BART...cut off your communications and now we will flood theirs.


We are Anonymous. ... Expect us.   

  And Eric Holdeman has this advice for BART:

This is the tip of the iceberg. ...[T]rying to control...people coordinating their efforts via social media...won't work!


[G]o talk to the Chinese Government. They are at it day in and day out and [know] how difficult it [now] is to control people's actions and thinking.


The spin doctors will be playing with this for a long time. There will be hundreds of attempts...before the lessons learned say, "It won't work."    

  Meanwhile, V3's anonymous canine barks lessons to learn:

As a result of its action the...site was defaced...and the group released personal data belonging to more than 2,000 users. ... BART warned users to be on their guard against...scams in the aftermath.


Pretty standard one for Anonymous this, and again highlights that every organisation must have contingency plans in place. ... Even more worrying for users...is the ease with which Anonymous hacked the BART site. Many may disagree with their methods, but...these high profile attacks should be getting the message across about the need for better web app security.    

   And Finally...
How Lithuania's capital city deals with illegal parking
[clearly a staged publicity stunt, but don't you sometimes wish your city would try this?]

Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch -- for which he has won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards on behalf of Computerworld. He also writes The Long View for IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itbw@richij.com. You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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